Energize Yourself with Chi Walking and the Gait of Destiny
Arguably, one of the best things we could all learn in our walking — and life in general — is how to create more energy in our body when we're feeling the lack of it. Some of you might say, "Well, just go take a nap." However, from my experience, sometimes a nap works, and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes, it's just not the right time or situation to take a nap. You can also consider this: because your energy (chi) is stagnant, instead of taking a nap, you just might need to do something to get it moving. So what can you do in those times when you need to energize yourself? On page 125 in the Chi Walking book, we tell you about the Energizing Walk, which teaches you how to use your breath, along with visualization, to help give your chi a jump start when you're feeling a little energy deficient. Here's another way to get your energy moving. In fact, if you practice this whenever you're walking, you'll experience a more consistent, sustainable energy level during your day, without extreme swings from high to low.
As any good yoga practitioner will tell you, a flexible spine is a healthy spine. The bending and twisting motion of yoga keeps your discs healthy, your bones strong and your nerve pathways clear and unrestricted. Here's a short anatomy lesson:
Your spinal column runs from your brain, down through the center of your spine, and carries all the bundled nerves from your brain to the rest of your body. At T12/L/1 (the juncture between your 12th thoracic vertebrae and your 1st lumbar vertebrae) that single bundle of nerves branches into all the nerve pathways that feed the rest of your body. As you can see, this particular spot along your spine is very crucial to the health of your body because if there is any blockage of energy flow here, it can affect the health of your entire being.
The Chinese also have a name for this particular area of the spine. They call it the Gate of Destiny. Their choice of words couldn't have been better for the reasons mentioned above. In classical Chinese medicine, the Gate of Destiny actually lies at the juncture between L2 and L3. This particular spot lies along a horizontal line that runs through the Kidney Meridian which is the main power source for all the other meridians of the body — no small potatoes. It's like the main circuit breaker in your house. When it is shut off, your whole house goes dark. In Chinese medicine, when this particular area of your spine is moving and healthy, all your organs and muscles are supplied with all the chi they need to perform their normal functions. So, needless to say, whether you subscribe to Western or Eastern medicine, you need to pay attention to keeping this area of your spine healthy and flexible.
When you practice Chi Walking, you create a twisting motion along your spine in the area of T12/L1, stimulating the Kidney Meridian, which in turn will increase the flow of life force energy to all the organs and muscles of your body. When you hold tension in your lower back, you will inhibit that flow of energy. To find this point, place your fingers on the lowest set of ribs on your back. Then follow these ribs in towards your spine. Where they meet your spine is T12/L1. One joint space down is your Gate of Destiny.
Here's how you can walk using the "Gait" of Destiny (pardon the pun). Whenever you're walking, whether for fitness or just to get to your car after work, pay attention to this spot and pretend that it is where your legs begin. That's right. Let everything below that spot swing as a single unit and your spine will take on a nice fluid twist. Try to avoid swinging your upper torso. Keep your shoulders pointed forward at all times, but let your entire lower body rotate from T12/L1 on down. If you tend to hold tension in this area, you might not at first be able to feel any twisting motion. But stay with it and you'll begin to sense some movement in that area. I've used this practice for years to help relax my lower back muscles when they get tense or go into a spasm. The twisting motion of your lower spine will also give an internal massage to the primary organs located in this area of your body.
It goes without saying that walking is one of the best ways to create movement in this area of your spine. It can also be said that keeping your posture straight and your spine limber are two of the best activities you can do to create lifelong health. By maintaining a good amount of movement along this area of your spine you'll be doing what we call "prehab" … taking care of your spine before anything unhealthy happens to it. With Chi Walking you can insure that whenever you need more energy, all you have to do is put on your shoes, head out the door, and open up the Gait of Destiny.